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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Ferdinando and Carolina (Blu-ray)
Ferdinando and Carolina (Blu-ray)
Kino // Unrated // September 19, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $21.11 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted November 18, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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While struggling with colitis on what may turn out to be his deathbed, King Ferdinando reflects upon his youth, in which he is relentlessly pushed by his father to marry an Austrian woman from the family of Empress Maria Theresa (Silvana De Santis). While young Ferdinando (Sergioa Assisi) slips away to sleep with the married Princess of Medina (Nicole Grimaudo), he escapes matrimony for as long as possible, as smallpox picks off members of Empress Theresa's family. Finally, Ferdinando's various aides and assistants are left with no choice but to trick Ferdinando into signing an agreement to marry the Empress' 16-year-old daughter, Carolina (Gabriella Pession). However, Ferdinando and Carolina unexpectedly discover they share an exaggerated sexual chemistry, learning to enjoy each other's company after all -- while the wheels of 18th century politics turn around them.

Although roughly a decade separates writer/director Lina Wertmuller's Summer Night and Ferdinando and Carolina (just like a decade separated Swept Away and Summer Night), the two films feel like companions. Wertmuller leans into the ugly selfish arrogance of King Ferdinando, who expects everyone around him to cater to his every whim while almost pointedly ignoring their calls for him to behave more respectably. Assisi's commitment to playing Ferdinando's unlikable qualities to the hilt recalls the similar exaggerated comic ferocity of Night's Signora Bolk. Through all three films, Wertmuller seems fascinated by unlikable characters, -- shifting sympathies from one to another in Swept Away, peering into an upper-class battle of wits isolated from the outside world in Summer Night, and here, specifically contextualizing a similar relationship within the context of the political climate they're living in.

Ferdinando and Carolina is an aggressively sexual film, starting with the erotic trysts between Ferdinando and the Princess of Medina. Although Wertmuller's version of sex is rarely explicit, in the sense that nudity is fairly minimal and there is not much focus on the act itself, there is a decadence to the way she films foreplay that permeates the tone of the movie, drawing a feminine eroticism through a masculine one (most strongly expressed during a montage near the end of the movie of Ferdinando laying out the web of women in his life). When Ferdinando and Carolina meet in his bedroom on their wedding night, there's a palpable electricity despite the characters hardly having a moment of screen time together before that moment. Their playful, honest, youthful energy in how they warm up to each other helps drive the rest of the movie, generating real chemistry between Assisi and Pession. (Wertmuller also gets in an amusing visual gag where Carolina is prepared for the evening by her sisters in a Christ-like pose.)

With this in mind, it is disappointing that Ferdinando and Carolina's political storyline is not quite as engaging as the sexual intrigue or romance. Ferdinando's servants and assistants have an agenda for his marriage to Carolina, but the headstrong and forward-thinking Carolina pushes back against their plans and Ferdinando remains as uninterested in politics as ever, whining "I want to fuck!" at a crucial meeting. The advisors arrange a complicated plot to try and turn Ferdinando and Carolina against each other, setting up an extra-marital affair for Ferdinando and then turning around and planting the idea that his wife is out to get him in his head, but it doesn't work, mostly setting up a sly comic punchline for the bookend scenes featuring the older Ferdinando (Mario Scaccia).

That said, the real thing that Ferdinando and Carolina could really use is simply more of Carolina. Wertmuller offers plenty of Ferdinando: clueless, indulgent, mean-spirited, and bitter. Carolina, the more interesting character from a historical standpoint, is only fully introduced right before her marriage to Ferdinando, and then disappears for a good chunk of the film while Ferdinando's advisors try to set him up. Carolina's intelligent and occasionally devious manipulation of Ferdinando is interesting both in terms of their character dynamic, the way Wertmuller explores women on screen, and for Pession's performance, but Wertmuller is more interested in studying Ferdinando and his weaknesses -- even when those weaknesses say something about her and the ways she may or may not have used him.

The Blu-ray
As with the other Kino Lorber releases of the new Lina Wertmuller restorations, Ferdinando and Carolina comes with dot matrix-style art over a single-color backdrop (a pine green here), with no images on the back cover at all. The one-disc release comes in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is a booklet featuring an essay by New York-based film critic (and friend) Simon Abrams.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.78:1 1080p AVC, Ferdinando and Carolina is the newest of the Wertmuller films I've seen thus far, from 1999, and accordingly, it looks the best, with one caveat. This is the first of the restorations to be completely free of teal and orange tint, with strong primary blues and greens throughout. Detail is very good, as is depth. The only mild reservation I have is the oddly minimal amount of grain visible on this transfer, although it does not seem to have any effect on the clarity of the picture. Sound is a decent DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track that, as with the other Wertmullers, is mostly just separation for the dialogue and music, although this is the first one that actually seems to be using source recordings for the dialogue, and thus there are some atmospheric effects as well. English subtitles, are, of course, provided.

The Extras
Other than the booklet, none. English and Italian original theatrical trailers for Swept Away and Summer Night, an Italian trailer for Love and Anarchy, a promo for the Lina Wertmuller Film Series, and a trailer for Behind the White Glasses are also included.

Ferdinando and Carolina is another interesting musing on the sexual and political entanglements of men and women from director Lina Wertmuller. Although this one's politics are arguably a bit less interesting than those in some of her previous movies, there is an erotic electricity to this one that helps drive it along. Recommended.

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